A holiday in Antarctica offers the chance to venture to the ends of the Earth, to a land of glaciers, giant icebergs, jagged peaks, deep blue fjords, penguins and whales, and immerse yourself in unique and beautiful landscapes that few people ever get to see. Follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers such as Shackleton, Amundsen and Scott, and experience the enigmatic lure of the White Continent for yourself.
Our travel experts Caroline and Ashleigh give the lowdown, from how to get to Antarctica to what you can see and do while you’re there.
How to get there
Cruises around Antarctica usually depart and return from Punta Arenas in Chile and/or Ushuaia in Argentina. You also have an option to do a fly/cruise and fly part of the journey into Antarctica, including over the Drake Passage - ideal for those after a shorter journey or looking to spend less time onboard a ship.
When to go
The Antarctica season runs from November to March, and the landscape is ever-changing with the different seasons. The Antarctic ice is at its most pristine in November, as the winter ice begins to melt and break up, creating new icebergs and dramatic sculpted ice formations. With the seasons the other way round in the south, in November and December, spring wildflowers bloom on the islands, and over Christmas and New Year, it is light for almost 24 hours a day, with colourful sunrises and sunsets illuminating the icy wilderness into the summer months of February and March.
Antarctic wildlife is at its most active from December to January, when you can see penguin chicks hatching and seal pups being born. Marine life flourishes, with whales and seals increasingly numerous (there are several types of whales and seals here). Penguin rookeries are at their fullest between January and March, when colonies can reach tens of thousands of penguins - a spectacular sight.
What it will cost
A trip to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and is guaranteed to be memorable. To give an idea of cost, an average price for a typical Antarctica cruise is £8,950 per person - this includes a 9-night cruise with most excursions and meals, return domestic flights, three nights in Buenos Aires (two at the beginning of your trip, one at the end), and one night in Ushuaia. There are varying cruise options to choose from - for example, a longer 18-day cruise also takes in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, where you can see king penguins and elephant seals lazing on the beaches, and learn about the Falklands war and the islands’ British history first-hand.
What to take
Good quality, waterproof, comfortable clothes suitable for exploring at sea and on land, with plenty of layers, including thermals, as well as hat, scarf and gloves, and a durable backpack for excursions. You should also have high-factor sunblock and sunglasses with high UV protection, due to the high levels of sun refraction on the ice. A good camera is also a must, and lightweight binoculars are useful for wildlife spotting and birdwatching (take plenty of memory cards and spare batteries for your camera, as cold temperatures can reduce their lifespan). Some items are available to borrow or buy, such as expedition boots, and many cruise ships, such as Silversea, offer a parka, backpack and water bottle to keep.
Where you will stay
Travelling off the beaten track doesn’t mean you have to stint on luxury. You can explore Antarctica in style onboard a number of luxury cruise ships, with comfortable cabins, many with their own balconies, delicious food and spacious decks where you can relax, take in the views and experience some premium wildlife spotting. These ships have been specially designed for travel in Antarctica, and come with ice-strengthened hulls. They vary in size, with bigger ships offering a more luxurious and sometimes cheaper experience, while smaller vessels are more personalised and can travel into areas inaccessible to larger ships, giving you more time on the ice.
You will also be accompanied by expert guides such as ornithologists, with onboard lectures and guided excursions allowing you to gain a unique insight into the areas you are travelling through.
What you will see and do
You will glide past glaciers, icebergs and colonies of penguins, as well as whales and seals, with albatrosses and petrels flying overhead.
There are usually at least two daily excursions, with the aim of giving passengers as much time out on the ice as possible. You can go wildlife spotting in small zodiac boats (such as the one above), which can zip around quickly and quietly on the sudden sighting of a breaching humpback whale. For the more adventurous, many ships offer sea kayaking opportunities (a great way to get as close as possible to the whales), as well as other activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, paddle boarding, cross-country skiing, taking a dip in icy waters and even spending the night under canvas. Find out more about experiences in Antarctica.
Take a look at our holidays in Antarctica. These are just suggested itineraries - we can tailor-make your perfect holiday and help you make the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Antarctica and beyond. Call us on 020 7337 9010 or Make an Enquiry.